Featured Post, or Blast from the Past

The Metaphor of a Car -- When Reading the Book Matters

Will wonders never cease?  Here is an arbiter of one popular cultural icon -- the automobile, criticising another -- the Hollywood film.  ...

15 January 2017

The Two Kinds of Mystery Writing

Just finished a book, The Borrowed by Chan Ho Kei, translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang, which my head is raving about, but I may not be able to articulate into words on this blog. No matter. The publisher has about six blurbs on the book, even managing a front cover rave by John Burdett (Bangkok 8), one of my favorite writers of a genre best called Southeast Asian police procedural amongst an exotically familiar criminal, political, and economically diverse society.

Burdett basically describes this book best: "It hands us the living history of Hong Kong through the gripping prism of crime and politics -- told backwards."  I also agree that it was "brilliantly executed." 

Another one who writes better than I is the author Chan himself, who upon request turned a mere note to editor into a thoughtful afterword.  Chan talks about two kinds of mystery writing, the classic and the social.  The classic is about mysteries and plots, clues and logical deduction.  The social kind of detective novel is
"more concerned with reflecting the state of society, focusing on character and situation.  [T]he flavour of one would easily overpower the other.  In order to solve (or avoid) this problem, I chose the structure of six stand-alone novellas, each fuelled by mysteries and clues, but all six fitting together to form a complete portrait of society.
That's right.  We first meet 2013 Superintendent Kwan Chan-dock in a coma on his deathbed, about to assist his protegee Inspector "Sonny" Lok with a case, made touchy by the wealth and influence held by the murder victim's family.  And then, it's like we've decided to cherrypick key points in Kwan's past career which happen to coincide with key points in Hong Kong's turbulent modern history as a British colony before, during and after being returned into the folds of Mainland China, currently Communist, so that everyone gets whipped around to meeting the young 1967 Kwan first making a name for himself as a "deductive powerhouse."  That these cases are actual mysteries and not simply background for sociological studies into that exotically familiar cultural stew satisfy those who pick this volume up looking for detective stories.  And this also helps in the learning of Hong Kong history and neighborhoods.  If you've never been, keep this in mind for Books on First's May 2017 Reading Challenge.

09 January 2017

The Storybook Project Continues!

Even while Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa only come once a year, new babies are born and unfortunately, new inmates into our prisons come, everyday.

The response from our customers to The Storybook Project had been wonderful over the holidays.  A new donated board book (or other book for the very young) is given to a incarcerated parent to read aloud and then, the book and the recording are given to his/her child to have and read along with the absent parent.

If you snowbirds missed the opportunity to give or if any of our great patrons would like another chance to pick a board book for a parent and child to share through a recorded reading, Books on First is set up to continue via our Storybook Project (done jointly with Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) and the Illinois Dept of Corrections),

Please do drop in and give the gift of reading, anytime.